Saturday, February 5, 2022

Developing a Biazza Ridge Scenario for "Battlegroup" - The Resources

I'm at it again.  I had so much fun developing the Hubbardton, 1777 scenario for "Live Free or Die" that I'm taking on a bigger, badder, and meaner scenario.  This time we're dipping our toes into the warm waters of the Mediterranean during Operation "Husky," the invasion of Sicily in 1943.  

Husky Invasion Plan

Husky was the opportunity for the western Allies to learn that when things go wrong in an Airborne operation, they usually go very wrong.  That's not to say it was all bad, though.  The tough, exceptionally well-trained British and American Airborne forces fought against long odds amidst some of the most difficult circumstances and prevailed.

For my purposes, I want a hard-fought, gritty battle that showcases the fighting in Sicily.  To me that says steep hills, arid plains, paratroopers, and the Hermann Goering Panzer Division.  The Battle of Biazza Ridge gives me all of those elements.

505th PIR Attacks!

At Biazza Ridge, the American 82nd Airborne Division's 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) attacked into the shoulder of the Hermann Goering Division's advance against Gela and the landing beaches.  This was a difficult and bitter action with the American Airborne eventually prevailing.  

82nd Airborne Patch "All American"

Divisional symbol of the Fallschirm-Panzer Division 1 Hermann Göring

Here was a battle where troop quality, leadership, and cohesion meant more than weapons as the HG Division brought Panzers, to include Tiger tanks, to bear against the Americans.  I'd like to showcase the excitement and tension of the battle on the tabletop, as well as the importance of their leaders.  To me that says this battle needs a gritty, tactical set of rules.  

This battle is screaming for the Battlegroup treatment.  But since there are no Sicily supplements for Battlegroup, we'll have to "improvise, adapt, and overcome" as the Airborne say.  So expect this battle to get the same treatment we gave to Hubbardton, with a post on the OOB, the terrain, and perhaps some other scenario design aspects!

So with all that said, here are some of the resources I'll be using for my research into the Battle of Biazza Ridge:

The Resources:

  • Sicily & The Surrender of Italy. CMH Publication 6-2-1.  If you dont have this publication by the US Army's Center for Military History, I urge you to download it and read it.  These compositions are some of the best resources a wargamer can have.  They are written extremely smoothly and seamlessly weave in the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of planning with plenty of juicy detail on the operation and also the lessons learned by the Armies involved.  CMH Pub 6-2-1 is one of those timeless classics you should have!
  • The US Airborne & Special Operations Museum page on the Husky Operations including Biazza Ridge with some cool pictures.  
  • An excellent account of how the Biazza Ridge battle unfolded along with some great personal accounts of the 505th PIR before and during the jump into Sicily along with subsequent combat operations, which will come in handy when we are developing the scenario and characteristics to add flavor to it.
  • Excellent Battle Account of Biazza Ridge, including terrain, pictures and a rare pic of Colonel Gavin around the time of the battle.
  • Another Battle Account of Biazza Ridge.
  • A Breakthrough Assault piece on the HG Division.
  • Wikipedia page on the Hermann Goering Panzer Division

Now time to crawl up into our attic and grab my US Paratroopers and start painting!


  1. Having fought this campaign with at least three different wargames, I look forward to seeing your treatment of a slice of the action.

    1. Stay tuned, Jonathan. There are some really neat posts coming up. I'm looking forward to fighting it out but I'd like to paint some of my HG troopers instead of using bog-standard Wehrmacht (although they'd do in a pinch). Same with the paras. I need to get them based and ready. It's going to be alot of fun.

  2. Look forwards to this - a very timely look at the system, I came so close today to hitting the button for the new Stalingrad expansion module.

    James Holland’s book Sicily ‘43 is up on the Kindle for £6 I don’t know how much information it gives on Biazza Ridge, but I remember seeing the hardback version of the book in the book store and it was quite a meaty thing. There will no doubt be an ASL related scenario somewhere on the web.

    1. Norm you just cost me money :) Also, I purchased the Stalingrad book when it came out and it's chock full of goodies so definitely something for you to consider.

      you know my on-again, off-again relationship with the BG rules. The more I read about the fighting in Italy, especially in Sicily, the more I think BG are the perfect set of rules for this kind of battle I have planned. stay tuned there is lots more coming!

    2. You have just cost me money :-) so quits

    3. Cheers, Norm. Curious to hear your thoughts on the Stalingrad book. I flipped right to the lists when it arrived, although i noted a neat little campaign in it while i was doing so.

    4. Yes, it is the campaign that intrigues me.

  3. I too recommend Holland's book, which is an excellent read and it gives plenty of useful info for the wargamer, especially on how bad the HG Division was in terms of troop quality and leadership etc. There is a good bit on their Tiger I's and how they had trouble moving up to make the counter-attacks etc. The Battle is covered over about 4 pages and the counter attack has it's own chapter.

    I tried to like the 'Battlegroup' rules but they never clicked with me and there were some mechanisms and omissions that just jarred . However I look forward to seeing what you come up with and how this progresses:).

    1. Thank you, Steve, I have already picked it up via amazon and am going to fast-forward to that particular section today :) interesting you mention how bad the HG were because I'm reading that from other sources, too. An undisciplined and unprofessional lot. their shockingly bad (and cruel) employment of their Tigers at Biazza Ridge seems to reflect this.

      Re Battlegroup, I have a very warm and cold relationship with them. For a low-level, platoon sized engagement I like them but there are many important rules that I feel like are always missed in our games or forgotten because we dont play it enough.

      What I will say that I like about them is the uncertainty from various random events like chit pulls for morale and the "beyond the call of duty" opportunity when a 6 is rolled for morale. the games produce a nice narrative of events which is what I'm wanting for this battle.

    2. I always thought the HG were rather good, but certainly not on Sicily. IIRC they had lots of Luftwaffe ground personnel who had no real training put into the front line, plus Luftwaffe officers in charge of Battalions who naturally had little knowledge of how to conduct ground operations. All of this is great to try and reflect the C&C that afflicted the Axis counter-attacks.

      Naturally there is a good amount of info on the US Airborne, their scattered deployments, positions around the ridge, assets that they could call upon or not during the battle.

      The book is a great read and he has rapidly joined my list of favourite military historians alongside Hastings, Beevor, Keegan & Kershaw.

    3. Steve, I was reading accounts of the Biazza Ridge battle and the Tigers seemed to have been thrown in without any attempt at serious infantry/armor coordination. It was as if the commanders knew they should order them forward, but had little idea what to do after they made contact. there didnt seem to be much emphasis placed on infantry/armor cooperation.

      I also found in my research so far that the Tiger crews seemed to have driven right up to the fighting positions and fired their 88's at literally point-blank range into them, and used their tanks as giant, fruit-squishing machines against the airborne infantry. (read one of those links above for some macabre accounts of the tigers running over bazooka teams)

      While an over run attack probably lends itself to that kind of violence, the tigers probably shouldnt have been risked in terrain like that without their begleit infantry accompaniment.

      all of this is my opinion of course!!

      wow putting Holland up there with Beevor and Keegan is high praise indeed! makes me glad I purchased!

    4. The whole build up to the Axis counter-attack makes for fascinating reading. The forces were being ordered hither and thither, hence the lack of a coordinated response. There is lots of good info on what problems the Tigers faced, not only getting there but trying to deploy to the attack. As mentioned, absolutely perfect stuff for us wargamers:)

    5. I’ll second that. Plus Holland is a local boy and is one of the key movers of the Chalke Valley History Festival!

  4. EXcellent. Rrally looking forward to this. Bazookas and badly led Tigers - what's not to like.

    1. Cheers Darren lots of good stuff coming up stay tuned!

  5. Apologies to resurrect this thread, but I've just caught up on it after seeing reference to Biazza on the Pendraken forum.

    I've juat read Hollands Sicily which I thought was excellent. I wanted to add the comment that's it's refreshing to see people not sagging of Beevor and Hastings. I've read jsut about everything they've written, and will continue to do so. I too put James Holland in the same category as them.

    Keep up the great work. For what its worth I'm just getting into Blitzkrieg Commander so will be looking to convert the scenario to those rules.

    1. Many thanks, Sean. I played the scenario and it needs a bit of work at the moment as the game turned into an absolute shooting gallery on a 4 x 4 table so I'll play it again on a 6 x 4 table but I say "Jack" played it with different rules and I'm looking at playing the scenario with other rules, too.